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Hope for Today is a monthly column written by Clint Decker. It is published online and in newspapers throughout the Great Plains. In it Clint shares a message of hope through the current events and trends of our day. This blog contains Clint's current and archived columns. HFT is a ministry of Great Awakenings, Inc. Learn more about Clint Decker and his ministry at www.greatawakenings.org.

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    Have you ever heard The Parable of the Rich Fool?  It is an ancient story Jesus once told. 



    Crowds would often follow Him and people would ask questions.  A young man once asked Jesus to get involved in a personal matter and make his brother divide the family inheritance with him.  In response, Jesus made a profound statement, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).


    Jesus laid his finger on the real issue with the young man.  He loved the “stuff” of life too much.  

    Jesus illustrated his point with a story.  He told about a wealthy farmer that had another tremendous harvest.  As a result the farmer said to himself, “What am I going to do?  What I have isn't enough storage for my grain.”  Then he decided, “I'll tear down my existing barns and build larger ones, then I'll be able to store all my grain and many other things.  And after that, because the harvest was so great, I'll have enough saved up for many years to relax, enjoy myself and have no worries.”  But, in the midst of his reasoning, God spoke to him saying, “Fool!  Tonight is your end and all that you've laid up in these barns, whose will they be?”

    The story communicated that life is more than the possessions we own.  Jesus effectively made the point by confronting the farmer with his own mortality.  It would all stay behind when he would enter eternity.  


    My wife and I witnessed the devastating losses people faced following Hurricane Katrina while doing some relief work along the Gulf Coast.  We saw families who lost everything.  All their possessions were suddenly ripped away.  As we talked to person after person, the disaster became a pivotal moment toward the real priorities in life.     

    Why wait to discover this when facing a crisis?  Our stuff can sometimes become a distraction.  As a result, we may live for today and neglect tomorrow, or in other words, live for what is important to us, rather than what is important to God. 

    Maybe we do not live for God because we do not know Him.  The farmer got a wakeup call to who God was when God declared, “Tonight is your end.”  Since He has power over life and death and the present and future we ought to heed His warning.  Let us make knowing God through Jesus our highest priority and managing all our stuff, down the list a ways.    .


    Here is a prayer for you.  “Creator God – I am sorry I have made things more important than people.  I am sorry I have put more trust in the things of this life, rather than you.  Take my heart.  Wash it clean of all my sin.  Become the number one priority in my life.  In Jesus name, amen.

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  • 09/06/17--08:43: The Answer to Racism
  • Levi was among the earliest disciples to follow Jesus and hosted a large dinner gathering for Him.  Because Jesus was celebrity-like He attracted attention wherever He went and on this occasion, while He was inside with Levi, the Pharisees were outside watching.  They were a religious group that fiercely opposed Jesus and condemned Him saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30).   



    Pharisee means “separate”.  In the case of tax collectors, the Pharisees separated themselves, because according to their religious rules, the collectors were considered unclean.  In modern day language, the Pharisees' actions revealed the hate and intolerance in their heart. 


    The tax collectors were thieves and corrupt to the highest degree.  However, the religious leaders responded with equal injustice.  They barred the tax collectors from their synagogues, refused to touch, speak or be in their presence and taught that promises made to them were permitted to be broken.


    When we return evil for evil, like the Pharisees did, nothing gets better, only worse.  And springing from this, when we look down upon others because their race or views are different than ours there will be no hope for peace.  The practice of separatism can lead toward bullying, oppression, racism, bigotry and to the extremes of ethnic cleansing and genocide. 


    Jesus is the answer to this inherit evil.  He is the only religious figure in world history whose life and teachings break down walls of separation between people, and His death and resurrection provided the power to do it.     



    When we surrender our lives to Jesus, His Spirit does a supernatural work in our hearts that washes away our sins and gives us a new heart that is filled with God’s love for all people.


    He modeled what this new heart looks like when He had dinner at Levi’s home.  He went toward someone that was different than Himself and showed mercy and kindness, which He showed toward His critics too. 


    Following Jesus' resurrection, He commanded His followers to take His good news to all people across the world, and do what He did with Levi.  Consequently, the uniting message of Jesus has been taken to nearly every nation and territory on the earth and through Him people of different races, political leanings and religions have broken down the walls of division.


    A prayer for you - Lord God, as we look across our community, nation and world division is everywhere.  Forgive me if I separate myself from those who are different than I am and look down upon them.  Change my heart and help me to show mercy and kindness to all.  By the power of Christ, let me be the change our world needs.  In Jesus name, amen.

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  • 10/03/17--08:04: Finding Calm in the Storm
  • Once after a long day of work, Jesus and His disciples climbed into a boat to cross the sea.  They pushed out and settled in for a little break until work would kick back up again on the other side.  Some of the disciples, due to their fishing experience, knew how to navigate the waters, so were comfortable on the seas.  Jesus immediately laid down and fell asleep.   

    Very soon however, the winds picked up and they were in the middle of a full-blown storm.  The wind speeds were high and created large waves that crashed down on their boat.  They began taking on water and became fearful their lives might be lost at sea.     



    Meanwhile, Jesus continued to sleep.  His disciples were agitated at His disconnect from the urgency of the situation.  Filled with panic and fear they angrily awoke Him saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).  


    Jesus stood, looked out on the stormy sea and spoke directly to the wind “Calm!” and to the waves “Peace!”  The disciples stood in amazement as suddenly the weather changed with the wind stopping and waters resting.  They marveled.


    Then He turned and confronted their lack of faith in Him.  Their eyes fixed on the storm and they became controlled with anxiety and doubt.  They lost all sense of reason, as panic took over.    


    The event communicated how Jesus has the power to control the greatest forces of nature and how He wants people to trust Him when walking through the disasters of life.   


    Jesus does not promise to calm every storm, but does show how through Him we can experience His peace. 


    If we are dealing with the effects of a hurricane, tornado or a wild fire, His calm can reign.  If we are dealing with a wayward child, bankruptcy or traumatic medical diagnosis, He can give us rest.      


    Sometimes He chooses to let the storms come and they cause great damage and pain, at other times we are spared with a sense of relief.  There is a mystery to it.  We do not understand God’s ways.  But one thing we do understand, His steadfast presence and abiding peace remain.   


    A prayer for you – Lord God, I pray for those in our country who are walking through the effects of hurricanes in the south and the forest fires in the west.  I don’t understand why these disasters were not suddenly stopped.  Even so, I pray you will show yourself mighty to those who have suffered loss.  Help them to trust in you despite devastation all around.  May you lift their eyes heavenward and fill them with your joy and rest.   


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  • 10/31/17--08:18: The Sports Obsession
  • The ancient people of Israel escaped their Egyptian slave masters for freedom.  As they exited Egypt, Moses their leader, often spent time with God seeking Him for guidance in governing the people.  One time, he was alone with God for 40 days.  As the time passed, the people began to doubt if Moses would return, so they looked to Aaron, Moses’ brother.  He became their new leader and they sought his help in finding a new god.  He led them to craft what became a golden calf and the people said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4).



    The people of Israel replaced the Lord God with a golden calf, because of their impatience.  What they once looked to God for, they now sought through their own creation.   


     
    The story illustrates the human condition.  All of us are like Israel.  We are constantly looking to replace God, without realizing it, by instinctively looking to other things to satisfy our needs. 


     
    As an example, sometimes sports can become one of those replacements when it evolves from a casual interest to an obsession.  It is a multi-billion-dollar world-wide industry that is a deep part of the fabric of our culture.  However, it goes too far when it consumes the family checkbook and calendar to the neglect of more important things.  When it pushes parents to yell at referees or berate their child’s effort.  When it drives big business to deceivingly entice our young people with fame and fortune that leads them down the path of disillusionment and bankruptcy.  The promises of sports are grandiose, but empty.  After a loss, injury or even the next morning following a stunning victory, it offers nothing.   



    Only true and lasting joy, peace, relationships, purpose and worth can come from God through Jesus.  He came to suffer, die and rise again to show us where real life is found.  He is the way.  Every other way is a fake, cheap replacement, no matter if it is sports or something else.  Today, experience the forgiveness of all you have ever done wrong and discover what you have always been searching for – Jesus.         




    A prayer for you – Lord God, I pray that you will examine the heart of each reader, showing them if they have a misplaced priority of sports in their life.  May they seek you for forgiveness if they do and may Jesus become their consuming passion.  Whether their teams win or lose or their child excels or not, may their eyes always be fixed on you.  In Jesus name, amen.     










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    As I sat down to prepare for this column, I began thinking about Christmas and the end of the year. I pondered some news headlines like the nationwide sex abuse scandals spawned by Harvey Weinstein, the Texas church mass shooting and a potential war with a nuclear weaponized North Korea. I wondered, "With all this, how can we move into a joyous Christmas season?" 

    Then as I began reading the Christmas story from the Bible, a light came on. When I dug beneath the surface, I saw how history has much in common with our day.

    The ruthless King Herod, who had been given the title King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, ruled over Israel during the time of Jesus’ birth. One day, a large entourage of esteemed, well educated, eastern wise men entered his city after a long journey. When they arrived they began asking, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2). Unknown to them, Herod already held the title, King of the Jews, so all Israel became troubled by their questioning. Herod immediately became protective of his position, and determined to strike down his rival, employing a gruesome tactic. He knew baby Jesus could be no more than two years old, and learned from the wise men, He was from the area of Bethlehem. Therefore, he mobilized his soldiers to kill any child under two living there. Jesus was spared, when Joseph and Mary took Him and fled toward Egypt for protection.

    History’s first Christmas was filled with darkness and despair, but also tremendous hope.

    Jesus was born a few miles from Herod’s palace. It was intentional. God sent His Son to be born in the presence of evil’s most notorious figure, King Herod, and boldly announced His coming. Right on evil’s doorstep God came and firmly planted a flag of victory in the form of an empty cross that His Son one day would die on.

    Repeatedly, Herod and other emissaries of evil have tried to vanquish what is good; time after time they have always failed. In this spiritual battle between good and evil light bursts through the darkness, love smothers hate and forgiveness cuts down the legs of bitterness.

    No matter the news headlines or political spins this Christmas, there is hope waiting for you in Jesus’ manger. That hope can become yours when you decide to turn your back on the wrong things you have done, and when you are ready to give up trying to be a good person in your own power. Call upon Jesus. Ask Him to make you good, by making you a new person and giving you a new heart. Then in Him, you will find a new beginning.

    A prayer for you – Lord God, open the understanding of our hearts to the real meaning of the Christmas season. Take our burden of fear or despair. Cleanse our hearts of anything impure. Come to live within us by your Spirit, and fill us with new life, hope and truth. In Jesus name. Amen.

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    Two months ago my family and I laid my father (Paul Decker) to rest, after he unexpectedly died of advanced pancreatic cancer on November 13; three days after his diagnosis.  The holidays were obviously different for our family knowing dad was gone.  It is not only unique for us, but for thousands of others who lost a loved one in 2017.



    After we buried my father, and traveled back home to Kansas from Ohio, death visited again.  Within days, I found myself standing next to a friend in a hospital bed who had just lost her husband in a horrific vehicle accident, where she also received multiple injuries.  No one is immune.  If you are in a situation like this, where can you find hope in this New Year?  As you see others dancing the night away and having good times with family and friends, you may feel an emptiness, because a spouse or parent is gone and not coming back. 


    On that November Monday night, at 10:00 p.m., I received a call I will never forget.  My mother, in shock and in the deepest of tears told me dad was gone.  As I hit the floor in overwhelming despair, nearly 1,000 miles away, I was soon drawn to pick up my Bible.  I flipped to 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 and read it for myself and to my mom and sisters via cell phone, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  “O death where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting.”  Within minutes, Jesus’ relationship with me and His Word were giving me grace filled hope.  The hurt did not stop, or the tears dry up.  Even so, Jesus and His Word became my Rock.  My refuge.  My sustaining hope. 


    Furthermore, additional hope was found in the story of my father’s life.  On September 3, 1972, during the last night of a series of camp meeting services in New York, he surrendered to Jesus and became a new man, and then a year later was called by God to be a pastor.  For 34 years my dad pastored churches throughout the Great Plains and Midwest. 


    Knowing dad trusted Jesus as His Lord and Savior and served Him gives me hope.  The grace of God that saved him, kept him and took him to his eternal home, assures me, that one day by that same grace, I will see him again.  Jesus’ relationship with me, His holy Word and the life-changing story of my dad is my sustaining hope.   


    If you are facing death or grieving someone who has died where is your hope?  Start out 2018 with a commitment to Christ.  Let His grace wash you clean of all you have ever done wrong.  Surrender your life to Him.  Time is short.  Do it now.  Live each day to its fullest for the glory of God and the good of others.     


    A prayer for you to pray – Lord God, as I walk through this valley of grief and pain, be my hope.  Forgive me of all my sins and become my hope for today and all eternity.  Teach me your Word that through it you will become my solid rock.  In Jesus name.  Amen.     




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    Years ago when I was studying to become a minister at MidAmerica Nazarene University, a professor dedicated the class time to teaching on sexual temptation in ministry.  It was not for academic purposes, but to prepare us.  I am glad he did!



    My mind raced back to that class as I reflected on the flood of sexual misconduct stories beginning with Harvey Weinstein.  The women that came forward in the film industry, gave courage for others to speak out in the worlds of sports, politics, and media.  By no means is it limited to those arenas.  I live in the world of religion. Unfortunately, the problem extends there also. 


    As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let me be clear, none of this has anything to do with real love.  When someone of great influence moves sexually on someone of lesser influence, it is about lust and abuse of power.  When a man or woman of a lesser position sexually engages with person of higher position, that he or she might find some advantage, it is for personal gain.  When an organization refuses to act on confirmed reports of sexual allegations against its influential leader, they are looking out for themselves.  And it does not matter if it is consensual or not.  Wrong is wrong.  And no one is immune from this.  In the Bible, the heralded King David became a victim of sexual sin as found in the legendary story of David and Bathsheba. 


    David was an honorable man of God, but at the height of His fame and power, he became morally weak.  One day, instead of tending to his normal duties, he strolled onto the roof of his palace to view his expanding kingdom with pride.  In that moment, a woman appeared in the distance that captured his attention.  He used his position as King to summon her, where they slept together, and she became pregnant.


    The story did not end there.  For a year, David hid his heinous actions until God sent a messenger to confront him.  Finally, David turned from his pride and humbly confessed his evil to God. 


    After an incident like David had, it would be easy to feel as if life was over because of the consequences.  There is no future.  There is no hope.  Let me say, that with God, there are always second chances.    


    Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus the evil of your sexual sin can be forgiven.  Your shame and guilt can be washed away.  In the face of your consequences, you can have freedom.   


    A prayer for you to pray – Lord God, I can see that what I have done is wrong.  I desperately need your forgiveness.  I pray David’s words who said, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2).  In Jesus name.  Amen.   


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    If you take a few minutes and read over any local or national news, you will find bothersome stories.  Like officials in a well-known college basketball program using prostitutes and strippers to recruit top players.  Like some merciless girls and boys that taunted a young man, which lead to his suicide.  Like a teenager walking into a school and drawing his weapon to slaughter 17 people.



    The problem in each of these stories was a moral one.  Wrong was right and right was wrong.  And collectively, they reflect a moral crisis in our nation.  This is why we need Easter.  It projects a sign of hope that stands above the chaos.  The sign of the cross.  It is where Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and died. 


    The hope of the cross lay in the purpose of Jesus’ death.  Strangely as it may sound, it was planned. 


    At Jesus’ birth an angel announced to Shepherds in a field, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).  A Savior?  Yes!  Save means “to rescue”.  Rescue from what?  Sin.  It is the wrong things we do against ourselves, others, but primarily against God our Creator.  And it lives within our hearts.  Sin is displayed at every lie we tell or feeling of pride that squares our shoulders.  It is our inner moral rot, like a cancer that slowly destroys us. 


    Jesus was born to rescue us from this.  His planned suffering and death, was the only means through which we could be rescued, and it was an ugly experience.  The corruption by religious and political figures that sentenced Jesus to death was ugly.  The tearing apart of Jesus’ flesh was bloody and ugly.  Jesus being hung on two pieces of wood by being nailed to it through his hands and feet, was inhumane and ugly.  The gruesomeness of the cross, illustrates the severity of our wrongs.  In the courtroom of God, our failings required the penalty of spiritual and eternal death.  However, in the greatest display of sacrificial love, Jesus suffered and died in our place.  He took our sin and penalty upon Himself, so we wouldn’t have to. 


    That is the hope of Easter.  Through the cross, a hard-hearted man can become loving and forgiving.  Through the cross, a bitter woman can become kind and compassionate.  Through the cross, a divided nation can become one.   


    And what guarantees these things?  The resurrection of Jesus.  Three days after He died, He rose again.  Therefore, because He lives, so-can-YOU.  His victory can be yours. 


    A prayer for you to pray –  God in heaven, I can see the darkness of my heart.  I do not have it all together.  I am broken.  I need the work of the cross in my life.  Oh God, save me!  Rescue me!  Give me a new heart and a new life today.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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    Are you becoming increasingly concerned about your child’s safety at school?  Has your church begun discussions on providing security during worship services?  Have you had some uneasiness while at public gatherings, wondering if some incident might take place?  Unfortunately, this is where we are in American life right now.  More and more people are having these concerns and rightly so when you see the news. 



    Our society is becoming more dangerous and I am not the first to ask, “What is the solution?”  Let us start with identifying the problem.  The epidemic of violence is highlighted by cold blooded murders in our schools and inner cities.  And it also involves the brutality of physical and sexual assaults in homes, on the streets, on campuses and in workplaces.


    There is a place for new legislation, better enforcement of existing laws, awareness campaigns and task forces.  But they all have limits.  They can help restrain violence and provide all kinds of data and resources for combating it.  However, none of it goes to the source. 


    What is the ultimate problem?  The human heart.  The Scriptures say, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)  It is where a person’s values, beliefs and standards lay.  This is what gives them the justification to terrorize.  It is where they become a god unto themselves and exert power over others to destroy.


    Only the presence of God in a human heart can give what our society is calling for.  But ironically, that is missing from the public debate.  America has a chronic heart condition, and the more we stray from God, the more violent our nation will become.  It is truth and consequence.


    To end the violence in our streets requires humbling ourselves before God and asking for His help.  We have tried it our way.  Now let us try it His way. 


    Our world has never seen the horror of violence more than in the death of Jesus of Nazareth.  It was brutal.  Yet, through it, a morally perfect man, took on Himself the evil that existed in every human heart.  He bore the sheer depravity of all mankind.  And when He rose again from the dead, He overcame the darkness.  Through it He became what every heart, every city longs for – peace.  Jesus Himself became our peace.  In Him, a person of brutality can become one of tenderness.  In Him, a monster can be changed into a beautiful and precious child of God. 

     


    A prayer for you to pray–Lord God, search my own heart.  Let the change in my city begin with me.  Point out if I have hurt people physically or with my words.  I am sorry Lord for how I have treated others.  Rid the evil within me.  Forgive me for what I have done.  Make me into a kind and loving person by your power.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

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    “I believe in God.”  I have heard the statement many times in my years as a minister in rural communities across the Great Plains.  The regular at the local bar, the businessman, the county jail inmate, the greeter at the church, and the friendly neighbor across the street all have said they believe in God and are doing fine.   



    Additionally, nearly every person I have talked with has heard of Jesus, God, the Bible and are familiar with many Christian terms and concepts.   Some regularly attend church while others only went as children.  Others have gone just for funerals or weddings and a few have never been.  And though many are not familiar with traditional Bible stories, the majority have heard or read at least portions of the Bible. 


    If so many people believe in God, then why are our communities so filled with abuse and immorality?  Should not this belief make a difference? 


    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding about what belief in God means.  Maybe people think they believe, but in truth, they do not.  


    The Bible is the original source for understanding the whole idea of belief in God.  A casual reading of the Bible on this can be a little confusing.  On one hand the Scripture says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved . . .” (Acts 16:31).  While on the other hand, it says, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19).  The Devil believes in God like everyone else?  What is wrong with this picture?  It all comes down to understanding what belief means, not according to our opinions, but according to God’s Word. 


    If you study the Bible on the subject you will see five truths.  1)  Believing in God is synonymous with belief in Jesus.  Since Jesus is God’s Son, to refuse to believe in Him is an empty belief.  2)  Believing in God is an acknowledgement of Jesus.  It means you acknowledge His deity, virgin birth, death and resurrection.  3)  Believing in God is to trust in Jesus.  It means you are willing to entrust your whole life into His care and submit to His leadership.  4)  Believing in God is to follow Jesus.  It means you are willing to do what Jesus and the Word of God says, no matter the cost—even unto death.  5)  Believing in God is union with Jesus.  It means Christ is in you and you are in Him. 


    The belief the Devil has is knowledge-based and does not proceed to trust, following or union with Christ.  The Devil’s belief does not lead to a changed life.    


    However, a whole-hearted, biblical belief in God through Christ shows itself in a spiritual and moral transformation.  The old has gone, the new has come.  You do not have to tell someone you believe in God, they can see it.

     


    I urge you to embrace full-on, radical belief in Christ.  Go beyond superficial words and the mere window dressings of religion, like Jesus did, when He went to the cross and shed His blood for you.  He counted the cost and laid His life down.  Do the same.  Count the cost and believe in Him with all your heart.

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  • 06/05/18--06:27: Is Life Worth Living?
  • Clay Center, Kansas –The fall of 1993 was one of the most difficult periods of my life. 



    I was a sophomore at a Christian college, studying for a career in ministry.  I went through a valley that seemed to get deeper and darker as the weeks passed.  The semester began with taking a Greek class, only to drop it after failing multiple exams.  In relationships, I went through two break ups back to back.  I also battled a strenuous relationship with my dad.  In ministry, I felt like a failure as a young preacher and doubted my call as an evangelist.  Consequently, with short notice, I canceled being the guest speaker at a week-long revival.  Additionally, I resigned from leading a campus ministry.  I turned inward, pulling away from people and activities into my own dark world. 


    One night, as I was lying on the bed in my dorm, I stared up at the ceiling with my mind racing.  “How can I make it through this?  What’s happening to me?”  Thoughts of leaving school, the call to ministry and ending my life even flashed across my mind.  Have you been there or know someone who is? 


    “Is my life worth living?”  That is a question that can surface in times like this. 


    Your parents came together and you were born, but behind them is your ultimate Creator.  It is said about Him, “God created man in his image.  Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).  And when He made your life, He did so with value and purpose. 


    In one of the Ten Commandments God said, “Do not murder.”  He said that because He values human life.  Only humans were uniquely made in His image.  As a result, He does not want you or someone else ending your life.  And when He made you, He did so with purpose and meaning. 


    About all humanity, it is written, “. . . they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.  Yet, he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).  You may feel alone, yet the God who made you is closer than you think. 


    I ended up making it out of my dark valley through the help of encouraging people, God’s invisible sustaining hand, and the truth of His Word, the Bible. 


    It was not easy reading or listening to the Scriptures, because they pointed out the problems that were causing my problems.  Ouch!  There is a reason you do not think life is worth living, so it is important to face the unvarnished truth, through the searchlight of God’s Word. 


    Take your eyes off yourself and away from your despair.  Lift them toward God’s Son, Jesus.  For He came from heaven to earth, to die on a cross and rise again--for you.


    A prayer for you to pray–“Lord God, I wrestle with the thoughts of wondering if my life is worth living.  I turn toward you, my Creator.  Show me my purpose.  I accept that I cannot do this anymore on my own.  I turn from the wrong things I have done and call out to you for help.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.”


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  • 07/03/18--07:20: What is America’s Future?
  • President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”  An ancient prayer from the Bible says, “Two things I ask of you . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).


    The idea conveyed is having little or much can affect the character of a person - and a nation. The United States has seen both. In her early years she had little, while in modern times she has had much. Today, the U.S. is the leader in innovation, has the greatest university system, the world’s most powerful military, the largest economy and provides unequaled human freedoms.  

    Since the late 1800’s, which began the industrial age, America has seen incredible growth. The success has changed America’s character. Her pride has grown into arrogance. Her increased knowledge has questioned the need for God. Her advancements in technology have made her like a god and her hi-tech weapons have replaced God.     

    The principle of abundance leading to a denial of God is a predictable pattern. When riches, power and success mount there is a quiet shift in the heart of a nation, that when left unchecked, can lead to its downfall. 

    Who is America’s greatest enemy? Some other nation, terrorists or a conglomerate of cyber warriors? Our greatest enemy is – we the people. 

    The lure of money and power is becoming our Great Destroyer. Its deceptive appeal has caused us to think too highly of ourselves. It has created a false sense of security bringing us to believe we are a nation that is indestructible and indispensable to the world. We have been willingly seduced by prosperity giving birth to the children of ease, complacency and immorality.    

    Let us learn from the downfall of ancient kingdoms like Rome, Egypt, Greece and the once vast British Empire. Mere common sense says if we continue down the path we are on, America will eventually implode. 

    Despite the growing number of atheists within our borders, the Lord God does exist, and He is our only hope. Not political parties, legislation or changes in the economy. Let us examine our ways and do something about it. We must humble ourselves and stop our power hunger, corrupt and immoral practices. We must make peace with God and with one another. This cannot be done through multi-faith efforts or by starting an organization. This turn around can only be done through our faith in the Creator God, and His only Son. Let us plead for Him to pour out a heaven-sent spiritual revival to sweep border to border.    

    A prayer for you to pray– Lord God, I see evil and lawlessness across our land. We desperately need you to send a move of your Spirit upon us. I admit my own wrong doings and how I have contributed to the condition of our country. Forgive me Lord for what I have done. Oh God, come upon our land. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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    Jesus once told a story about two men who went to pray.  One was a high standing religious man, the other was a tax collector that had extorted money from people. The religious man prayed saying, “God, I thank you I am not an extortionist, immoral or an evil person like so many, including this man next to me.  And I praise you that I regularly fast and pray and give 10% of all my income to the church.”     



    Then the other man prayed.  He stood far off by himself with his head hung low against his chest.  He could not bear to lift his eyes heavenward.  Instead he wept and cried out, “God, please show me mercy!  I am a sinful man!”


    The differences between the two men are startling.  The religious man saw himself as a good person because of the good things he did.  He was not like everyone else.  He was better.  Meanwhile, the tax collector saw himself as nothing.  There was an admission of all he had done wrong.  A sense that he was undeserving, so in brokenness he called out for mercy. 


    When I view the landscape of the American church and society, I see a nation filled with people like the religious man.  Multitudes feeling generally good about themselves because of their attempts at doing good things.  They admit they have done wrong, but counter with efforts that are akin to moral insurance to sooth their conscience.


    They also view themselves as better than the other guy, like the religious man did.  They are better than the drug dealer or corrupt politician. They see “those people” as the ones who need the help and religious saving, not themselves.  


    These attitudes are dangerous.  They can lead to a moral and spiritual obnoxiousness that will produce a sterile church, empty of spiritual power.  It can also divide a nation among the upright elites and the downright immoral. 


    We all are sinners with evil lurking in our hearts.  All of us.  Regardless of our religion, political party or standing in our community.  All of us have done wrong.  No exceptions.  Who has never told a lie, never had a bad thought about another person or never has done something from a selfish motive?  Who?  We!  Are!  All!  Sinners! God affirms this saying, “None is righteous, no, not one . . . no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11,12).


    We have this mysterious evil within us that surfaces in our words, actions, motives and attitudes. What are we going to do about it?  Wish it away?  Ignore it?  Increase our efforts at being good? 


    Because of what we have done we face the penalty of spiritual and eternal death.  Yet, it can be avoided.  This was the reason Jesus came from heaven to earth.  He came to go to war against the evil by dying on a cross. There He took our place.  He took our penalty.  He suffered and died for us.  Then rose again, securing the promise of forgiveness and a new life in Him. 


    If you admit there is darkness inside you, an evil that dwells within, then in the humble spirit of the tax collector, call out to God for mercy.  Then because of what the Lord God did through Jesus for you and your entire family, freedom is waiting. 


    A prayer for you to pray– Lord God, examine my heart.  Point out to me the sin that lives within me.  I do not want it there any longer.  I place my trust in Jesus and ask for forgiveness for all I have done wrong.  Cleanse my heart.  Make it new.  Change my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


     


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  • 09/04/18--08:40: Freedom from Alcohol
  • In the rural ministry God has given, I see the negative effects of alcohol on a regular basis.  Most of the time people deny they have a drinking problem while it’s clear to everyone else, or they admit they have a problem, but are not willing to get help. 



    The millions who drink are part of a long and storied history dating back over 3,000 years to a man named Noah.  History records him as being the first person to plant a vineyard, make his own wine and booze it up until he became humanity’s first drunk.    


    The biblical story recounts Noah as drinking alone in his tent, where the alcohol overtook him, then he disrobed and passed out on the floor without a stitch of clothes on.  The incident caused embarrassment and division within the family. 


    Let me point out, this was Noah, the one whom God chose to be His voice to the world during the 40-day global flood.  He was the one about which the Bible says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless . . . Noah walked with God.”  (Genesis 6:9)


    It does not matter if you are a well-respected clergyman, are in constant trouble with the law or somewhere in between, anyone can fall prey to the temptation of the bottle.


    I firmly believe no one takes the first drink with the intention to do something embarrassing or harmful.  Instead their reasoning may be, “It goes good with my meal,” “I like the taste,” “I just want to have some fun with a few friends,” or “It’s been a stressful day and I just want to relax.”  Then one drink, turns into two, three and soon they are feeling tipsy, buzzed, and then drunk. 


    God says about alcohol, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”  (Proverbs 20:1)


    Have you ever been a little woozy or totally drunk more than once or many times?  Are you able to go a day, week or month without a drink and have no physical symptoms?  After drinking have you ever quietly passed out like Noah, or became loud, obnoxious and abusive around others?


    I urge you to please stop.  The practice of drunkenness is condemned by God.  According to Him, drunkenness is when alcohol hits the blood stream and it begins to intoxicate you, affecting your mind and body.  God’s view of drunkenness is much different than ours. 


    You do not have to be a slave to the bottle.  You can be free, and freedom begins with Jesus.  He died and rose again that through Him you might overcome.  If you need help, contact me and I can point you to some resources, but the place to start is with Jesus. 


    A prayer for you to pray– Lord God, I confess that I have let alcohol affect me.  I have allowed myself to become drunk and disobeyed your Word.  Forgive me.  I also confess I am a slave to alcohol.  Thank you for opening my eyes to this.  I cannot end it on my own.  I need your help.  Come and rescue me from this sin that is controlling my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”


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    As I prepared to write this column, there were continuing news stories related to the devastating report about the 1,000 children whom were sexually abused by Catholic priests in some Pennsylvania dioceses.  One article highlighted the Catholic church’s own report from 2004, which found more than, “4,000 US Roman Catholic priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years involving more than 10,000 children . . .”  Wow!  And that was in just the United States.  There were also reports in Austria, Chile, and others.



    What is happening that children do not appear to be safe in a church with a clergy person?  When I considered that, I slowly began to see how the Catholic church scandal is a devastating picture of a larger problem. 


    In protestant churches, pastors have resigned after admitting to adulterous affairs with someone in their own congregation.  In the business world, executives have been fired for sexually preying on members of their staff.  On school campuses, teachers have gone to jail for taking sexual advantage of their students.  In politics, well-known elected officials have stepped down because of sexual harassment. In the home, family members have been arrested for sexually abusing their own children.  In neighborhoods, young men and women have been picked up and sold into the global sex trafficking industry. 


    What is the common thread in all of this?  Sexual immorality.  God our Creator has given us instructions.  We are to walk in purity and restrict our sexual activity within the bonds of marriage.  Abusers and the immoral have total disregard for this.  They engage in adultery, pornography, incest, rape, homosexuality, prostitution, molestation, pedophilia, fornication.  All these and more are condemned by God and have devastating consequences for ourselves and others.      


    What can we do?  Fight against these evils in our culture by committing to your own purity.  It is written, “Flee from sexual immorality.  Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  When you commit to purity you are helping to protect your home, church, workplace, school, neighborhood and your own life.  It is not easy.  Temptation is all around us.  That is why it so wide spread and sometimes we fail.  We cannot do it on our own.  We need help.  We need Jesus! 


    He died and rose again to defeat the power of sin, which is at the root of our immorality.  He rose from the grave to make us holy and beautiful before Him.  When we turn to Him He comes to dwell within us by His Spirit.  And that Spirit gives us the ability to be pure.  No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus can wash you clean and empower you to live a pure life.   


    A prayer for you to pray– “Lord God, I want to be clean.  I admit I have done things with my body I should not have.  I regret it and confess my impurity.  Please, oh Lord, wash me.  Remove my immorality.  Forgive me and make me a new person today.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”


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    “Attitude of Gratitude”, “A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart”, “Thankfulness is The Beginning of Happiness.”  These are just some of the quotes you see after a quick search about thankfulness.  On the surface it appears thankfulness is a motivational and inspirational concept to “turn that frown upside down” and get our “half empty glass, half full”.  Thankfulness has much more substance than that.

     
    In the United States, thankfulness is part of our national heritage.  The creation of our Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in our European Pilgrim forefathers who came to America in the early 1600s.  Their practice of thanksgiving feasts came from their religious faith.  They worshiped God, were followers of Jesus and read their Bible.  One passage they no doubt read was Ephesians 5:20, “. . . [give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .”


     
    The whole idea of thankfulness has religious origins, found in our Creator.  To separate thankfulness from any mention about God and keep it merely as a motivational topic is to miss the real deep and rich meaning.


     
    The word “thanks” comes from the words “good” and “grace”.  It denotes two parties.  A giver and receiver.  The giver shows some kindness and the receiver responds with thankfulness to the good grace shown him or her. 


     
    In our western culture we act as if there was just one party.  We say, “Be thankful” or “I am thankful.”  But I ask, “To whom?”  We, as the receivers, are saying “thanks”, but we are acting as if it is in a vacuum.  There was a giver.  I argue, based on the truthfulness of the Bible, that God is the giver of all good things.


     
    There are unexpected blessings, kind acts, mysterious happenings that we may attribute to medicine, science, chance, fate or simply to nice people.  But behind it all is an invisible God showing you His goodness and grace.  Give Him thanks.  This is a message for the committed believer and for the nonreligious skeptic. 


     
    Talking about thanking God when things go our way, is one thing, but what about in times of suffering and hardship?  In those times we often turn and blame God, yet, His goodness and grace is there in bad times, too.  Because the pain blurs our vision, we often need God’s help, or the help of others, to see His goodness. 


     
    Acknowledgement is a key word in thanks.  In personal relationships, we should personally acknowledge the good someone brought us; with God it is the same.  Giving thanks is acknowledging His grace in the fabric of our lives – during the good times and bad.


     
    And the greatest act of kindness God has shown – is the giving of Jesus, His only Son.  Jesus’ life, death and rising again, gave you an opportunity for new life through forgiveness of all your sin.  He gave to the world without being asked and in the face of disbelief and opposition.  One day you will stand before Him and be judged.  Will you have believed and given thanks for Jesus or will you refuse and experience God’s wrath?  Open your spiritual eyes and see God’s goodness shown to you in Christ,then follow Him with all your heart.


     
    A prayer for you to pray– “Lord God, help me to see your goodness and grace in my life, in both the good times and bad.  Open my eyes that I might give you thanks and praise.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

     

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